Archive for the ‘Work File Only – Observer’s Challenge Reports’ category

Work-File: Used only for organization and editing. When all entries are received (March 8th, 2023) and a final .pdf report will be issued by the 10th.

January 26, 2023

Compiled by:

Roger Ivester, North Carolina


French, New York

February 2023

Report #169

The Flame Nebula: NGC 2024 in Orion

Sharing Observations and Bringing Amateur Astronomers Together


The purpose of the Observer’s Challenge is to encourage the pursuit of visual observing. It’s open to everyone who’s interested, and if you’re able to contribute notes and/or drawings, we’ll be happy to include them in our monthly summary. Visual astronomy depends on what’s seen through the eyepiece. Not only does it satisfy an innate curiosity, but it allows the visual observer to discover the beauty and the wonderment of the night sky. Before photography, all observations depended on what astronomers saw in the eyepiece, and how they recorded their observations. This was done through notes and drawings, and that’s the tradition we’re stressing in the Observer’s Challenge. And for folks with an interest in astrophotography, your digital images and notes are just as welcome. The hope is that you’ll read through these reports and become inspired to take more time at the eyepiece, study each object, and look for those subtle details that you might never have noticed before.

This month’s target:

William Herschel discovered this fetching nebula with his 18.7-inch, speculum-metal  reflector on 1 January, 1786. His handwritten journal for that night reads: A wonderful milky nebulosity, divided in three or 4 large patches including a dark space, the whole cannot take up less than half a degree; but I suppose it to be much more extensive.

Professor Courtney Seligman’s nifty website gives the following physical information on the nebula: 

Apparent size 30 by 30 arcmin. The “Flame” nebula, near the bright star Alnitak on the eastern side of the “belt” of Orion. Although the apparent closeness of Alnitak to the nebula suggests that its radiation is what lights up the nebula (Alnitak is a hundred thousand times brighter than the Sun, and two thirds of its “light” is ultraviolet radiation that is far more capable than visible light of causing such nebulae to glow), it is actually a foreground object, being only about 800 light years away, while the nebula is about 1500 light years distant. The actual energy source for the nebula is a group of OB stars hidden within its interior in visible light images, which have formed very recently (and in fact other such stars are probably forming within the nebula at the present time, as there is evidence that stars closer to the center of the nebula formed later than those in its outer regions).

The website’s front page is:

Mario Motta: Observer from Massachusetts

NGC 2024, taken with my 32-inch f/6.5 telescope in Gloucester, MA, using my ZWO ASI6200 camera.

For this object which is mostly a reflection nebula, I used Red/Blue/Green filters, but also H alpha as the Luminance, which gave nice added detail as there is some emission in Ha. No significant O3 or S2 emission to be had in NB imaging here.

Total of 3 hours imaging in all. Combined and processed in PixInsight, including the new BlurXterminator, giving crisp detail. My field of view is 24×16 arc minutes.

Larry McHenry: Observer from Pittsburgh

Emission nebula NGC2024 is located in the winter constellation of Orion – ‘The Hunter’.

The HII object, (Sh2-227), known as the “Flame Nebula”, (and also as the “Maple Leaf Nebula” by our northern friends), is about 1,354 light-years light years distant, and is about 6 light-years in diameter, and estimated to be several million years old. The glowing nebula is ionized by UV light from the nearby bright “O” class blue supergiant star Zeta Orionis, known as “Alnitak” one of Orion’s three belt stars. 

Similar to M42, the “Great Orion Nebula”, NGC 2024 is also an interstellar star factory, with a young star cluster containing several hundred stars embedded within the nebula. NGC 2024 is part of the giant Orion Molecular Cloud that contains nearly every bright, dark, and reflection nebula and star cluster visible within the constellation.

NGC2024 was discovered on the night of January 1st, 1786 by William Herschel using his 20-ft reflector, at his home in Slough. Herschel described the object as: “Wonderful black space included in remarkable milky nebulosity, divided in 3 or 4 large patches,,,.”. 


10/30/2020, from Big Woodchuck Observatory backyard in Pittsburgh, PA, using a 60mm refractor @ f/4 on a GEM mount, with a CMOS color camera and narrowband filter, 30-second guided exposure, live-stacked for 40 minutes. 

11/03/2021, from Calhoun County Park in West Virginia, using an 8-inch SCT optical tube @ f/6.3 on a GEM mount, with a CMOS color camera and broadband filter, 60-second guided exposure, live-stacked for 15 minutes. 

NGC 1245 Open Cluster In Perseus: January 2023 Observer’s Challenge Report #168

December 15, 2022

Work-File: Used only for organization and editing. When all entries are received (February 8th, 2023) and a final .pdf report will be issued by the 10th.

Mario Motta: Observer from Massachusetts

NGC 1245  reminds me of M11, similar in appearance.

A new deconvolution technique developed by Russell Cromen for PixInsight was just released (December 14th 2022) and this is what I used. It promises much better deconvolution and sharpening of images than anything done before. I was intrigued, so downloaded and tried it out on NGC 1245.

I am including an image of NGC 1245 with BlurX and a previous image for comparison.

This is an AI subroutine that works in pixinsight and corrects star deformity differentially across the field, and sharpens better than before. It is being touted as a “game changer” already by the pixinsight crowd….and so far, I have to agree.

On the BlurX version (first image) note stars are pinpoint actress the field, and some double stars are now cleanly separated. Also note that on the eastern edge (left side) two galaxies have popped into view not seen on original processing. Wow!

Images taken with my 32-inch f/6.5 telescope, R,G.G, and Lum filters, about 2 hours total imaging time, with ZWO ASI6200 camera.

Again….(first image) processed in pixInsight using the new BlurXtermintor plug-In.

Larry McHenry: Observer from Pittsburgh

Open Cluster NGC 1245 is located in the fall constellation of Perseus – “The Hero”.

The cluster is about 9,800 light-years light years distant, and is about 27 light-years in size, and estimated to be about 1 billion years old.

NGC 1245 was discovered on the night of December 11th 1786 by William Herschel using his 20-ft reflector, (18.5-inch speculum-metal mirror), at his home in Slough, near Windsor Castle. Herschel described the object as: “A beautiful compressed rich cluster of small and large stars. The stars arranged in lines like interwoven letters”. 


On 11/21/2022, from Calhoun County Park in West Virginia.  

Using an 8-inch SCT optical tube @ f/6.3 on a GEM mount, with a CMOS color camera and broadband filter, 15-second guided exposure, live-stacked for 5 minutes. 

Using EAA techniques, the moderate rich 8th mag open star cluster NGC 1245 is located next to 7.9 mag star SAO38671. The cluster’s stars are all of similar brightness, with several star-chains visible.

Phil Orbanes: Observer from Massachusetts:

This open cluster was discovered by William Herschel in 1786. It is 27 light years across, contains about 200 stars of 12th magnitude or dimmer, and lies about a billion light years from earth.

My RBG  photo includes 8 hours of imaging, with  my 14-inch Planewave reflector and FLI 16803 CCD camera, evenly divided among the three color channels. 

Roger Ivester: Observer from North Carolina

NGC 1245 – Open Cluster – Perseus 

Telescope:  10-inch f/4.5 Newtonian 

Eyepiece:  11mm 

Sketch Magnification: 104x

Field-of-View:  0.79º

A surprisingly faint cluster, especially from my 4.8 NELM back yard.  My first observation was using a 6-inch f/6 Newtonian, with little to no resolution, just a hazy spot, with a few brighter members.  

With my 10-inch, the cluster is much brighter as expected, when compared to the 6-inch, and with many faint members visible, but only when using a magnification greater than 100x.  The shape of the cluster is mostly irregular, with a few chains of stars being noted.  Mostly dim stars, but very rich.

Mike McCabe: Observer from Massachusetts

James Dire: Observer from Illinois

The double cluster (NGC 869 and 884) in the constellation Perseus might be the most famous set of open star clusters in the sky.  The pair is visible naked-eye in dark skies and even in some moderately light pollution suburban skies.  All of us have seen the stars Mirfak (Alpha Persei) and Algol (Beta Persei), one of the most watched and among the best eclipsing binary stars in the sky.  Between Mirfak and Algol is another of Perseus’ galactic star clusters, NGC 1245.  Not quite bright enough to see naked-eye, NGC 1245 can be seen in 7×50 binoculars from dark sites.

To find NGC 1245, look for the 3rd magnitude star Misam, four degrees north of Algol.  NGC 1245 is half way between Misam and Mirfak.

NGC 1245 is relatively large.  It has a diameter of 32 arcminutes.  The cluster shines at magnitude 8.39. A magnitude 7.94 star (HD20023) lies at the south edge of the cluster, which aids in finding the cluster. But HD20023 is not a member of the cluster.  Most of the brighter 30-40 members are between magnitudes 9 and 11.  The cluster lies 9200 light years away and has a true diameter of 86 light years.

My picture of NGC 1245 was taken with an Askar FRA 400 Quad Apo refractor. It has a 72mm f/5.6 objective with a 400mm focal length. I used a Celestron CGEM II mount and an SBIG ST-8300C CCD camera. Guiding was done with an Explore Scientific Evoguide 50ED with a ZWO ASI 120MC camera. The exposure was one hour using an Orion SkyGlow Broadband Light Pollution Filter.  In my 10-inch f/12 classical Cassegrain, the cluster looked very similar to my image of it. 

Joseph Rothchild: Observer from Massachusetts

I observed NGC 1245 on January 9th with relatively dark skies on January 9, 2023.  This is a faint open cluster in Perseus.  It was easy to locate among bright stars in Perseus, but in my 10” reflector it was not visible at 53x.  At higher power the cluster was seen at 102x and 179x.

The cluster was round and consisted of approximately 25 faint stars of nearly equal magnitude.  There were 2 brighter stars near the cluster, at 1/4 diameter and 1 diameter away.

Iota Cassiopeia – Triple Star: December 2022 Observer’s Challenge Report #167

December 4, 2022

December:  Iota (ι) Cas  Triple Star  Cassiopeia; mag=4.6;6.9;9.1; Separation: 2.9″, 7.1″

RA: 02h 29m;  Dec: +67° 24′  

December 2022 Observer’s Challenge Report .pdf final as following:

NGC 7184 Galaxy in Aquarius: November 2022 Observer’s Challenge Report #166

November 17, 2022

Final .pdf report as following:

M39: Open Cluster In Cygnus – October 2022 Observer’s Challenge Report #165

October 19, 2022

Complete Report: Click on the following link:

NGC 6751 Planetary Nebula In Aquila: September 2022 Observer’s Challenge Object: #164

September 23, 2022

NGC 6772 Planetary Nebula in Aquila: August 2022 Observer’s Challenge Object #163

August 21, 2022



NGC 6210: Planetary Nebula in Hercules: July 2022 Observer’s Challenge Report #162

July 18, 2022


NGC 5474 – Galaxy in Ursa Major: June 2022 Observer’s Challenge Report #161

June 22, 2022

Updated and revised June 2022 (galaxy NGC 5474) Observer’s Challenge Report, Final.  One of the fainter deep-sky objects to-date, in the past 14 years!  

The report will be heading into the fall really soon, and hopefully much better weather for most of us.  As for me, I prefer those cold nights of winter, with heavy coats, neck warmers, gloves, and for those of us in the south…always wearing a toboggan.  

Note:  From lower Virginia, and further south, all the way to Texas, a toboggan is a hat to keep a head warm…”known as a knitted or ski hat” in the north.  We had a good discussion concerning this, about ten years ago, and most everyone learned something new.

Yes…something to keep southerners heads warm, and not a sled.  🙂

My observing season really begins when the Pleiades is coming up in the east, just cresting the treetops.  This was my first deep-sky object at about 11 years old (same for Leslie Peltier) and at the time, I didn’t know it was Messier 45.  

Throughout my earliest years as an amateur astronomer, I always waited anxiously for October, and seeing M45 rising above the trees, and the same goes even today.  

Seeing M45 for the first time in the fall, causes me to go back in time.  I become eleven years old again…what a great feeling! 

Roger Ivester

M106 – Spiral Galaxy in Canes Venatici: May 2022 Observer’s Challenge Report #160

June 12, 2022